cancel external noise through an electronic compensation process. It does this by creating a mirror image sound wave right in your ear that makes the noise seem “cancelled” to you. This technology can be very useful for travelers as it can cancel out the sounds of jet engines.
The truth is that cheap headphones are not as good for listening to music and other audio asfrom Sony, Bose and others, but you can find some pretty decent noise-canceling models for a lot less money. Here’s a look at some of the best cheap noise-canceling headphones I’ve tried, all of which are under $100, with some even under $50. All of these earphones offer decent sound quality, active noise cancellation, and a comfortable earpiece to boot (no earphone to be seen on this list).
Looking for the best ANC headphones for audio, regardless of price and style? review theand the . This story was recently updated.
In terms of sound, comfort level, and build quality, you’d be hard-pressed to do better than Anker’s SoundCore Life Q30 for the money. It doesn’t have the clarity or bass definition that some of the better premium models have, but it’s less than a third of the price and gets you about 75% of the way there in terms of sound. It’s well balanced overall, with powerful bass, and there’s an app that lets you tweak the sound. Noise cancellation is good for the price, though not quite on the level of the Sony WH-1000XM4 or Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700. Battery life is an impressive 40 hours on USB-C charging.
The only area where the Q30 falls a bit short is in voice calls. It picks up your voice well in quieter environments, but doesn’t reduce background noise as well.
Compared to the Q20 (see below), the Q30 offers improved sound (not a huge difference, but definitely a step up) and a more premium design. There’s also the new Life Q35 ($130), which adds support for Sony’s LDAC audio codec for high-resolution audio streaming with compatible music services. I’m not sure it’s worth the upgrade for $50 more, but I expect the Q35 to come down in price over time.
Edifier’s makes some good-sounding PC speakers and truly wireless headphones, and has done a good job with its W820NB noise-canceling headphones. The first thing you’ll notice about them when you put them on is that they’re comfortable: the ear pads are well padded and the earcups fit your head perfectly. They also sound good for their price, offering just enough clarity and decent bass performance. Their sound didn’t surprise me, but I was fine listening to these headphones for a while; they sound pretty nice.
There’s also an ambient mode that lets outside sound in, and a low-latency gaming mode. They’re decent enough for voice calls, and battery life is pretty impressive, with up to 49 hours of battery life on a single charge at moderate volume levels (and with noise cancellation turned off).
A couple of things are missing. There’s no carrying case or headphone jack, it’s just Bluetooth. But the 820NB headphones are still good value for money.
Anker’s SoundCore Life Q20 is arguably the best value in noise-cancelling headphones. Not only do these budget noise-cancelling headphones sound pretty decent for their $60 regular list price (they often sell for $10 less with an instant coupon on Amazon), they’re also comfortable to wear thanks to their puffy ear cushions. . Expect the price to drop even a bit more, as Anker has now released the SoundCore Life Q20 Plus, which adds app support and USB-C (instead of Micro-USB) charging.
No, the Life Q20 doesn’t sound as good as premium Bluetooth headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM4, but the audio quality sounds pretty good, which is all you can ask for in a noise-canceling headphone at this price. It’s fairly well balanced with a reasonable amount of clarity and powerful bass that isn’t bloated or muddy (there’s a Bass Boost or BassUp mode if you want some extra bass help with your music). Also, the noise cancellation is acceptably effective at reducing noise and blocking out ambient sound and it’s decent enough as a headset for making calls. Battery life is good at 40 hours. A simple carry bag is included.
Founded by four former Amazon employees, Wyze is known for its valuable security cameras, but now it’s doing a good job with value headsets. Its over-ear noise-canceling headphones offer a comfortable fit with deep memory foam ear cushions and solid overall performance. Its noise cancellation is pretty good, though you do get some extra passive noise isolation from the tight seal the ear cushions give you (your ears will get quite damp in warmer weather). These are Alexa-enabled, so all you have to do is press a button to access Amazon’s voice assistant, or you can use your phone’s native voice assistant if you prefer. There’s also a transparency mode that lets in ambient sound.
As far as sound quality goes, these are on the warmer side – they’ve got plenty of bass and a fairly open soundstage, though they lack that extra clarity and definition you get from higher-end models (bass is a bit soft). ). In other words, the sound is pretty good for the money, but not ridiculously good.
Battery life is up to 20 hours at moderate volume levels and I thought the headphone performance was decent too. A cloth carrying bag is included along with a USB-C charging cable and cable to use as wired headphones.
There aren’t too many in-ear noise-cancelling headphones. Beats Solo Pro is one of the best, but it’s quite expensive at $300, although we’ve seen it on sale for half that price. Meanwhile, these cheap noise-cancelling headphones, the JLab Studio ANC, cost less and offer solid overall performance for a budget model with decent sound quality, noise cancellation, and battery life (28 hours with ANC on). While they may not be stellar for making calls, they work well as headphones: Callers said they could hear me clearly, even with some outside noise around me. A carry bag is included.
The Studio ANC headphones are reasonably comfortable for an over-ear model (I prefer over-ears), but those with larger heads may feel like they fit too tight.
Tribit makes one of our favorite budget pairs of headphones for sound quality: the Tribit XFree Tune. That’s not an active noise-cancelling headphone, though. This model is. You can find similar wireless ANC headphones from other generic headphone companies on Amazon (Taotronics, for example, has a model with a similar design), but these over-ear headphones sound pretty decent and their noise-cancelling works pretty well, cutting out a lot of ambient noise and background noise. It doesn’t sound as good as the XFree Tune with music, but it’s among the better-sounding budget models in this roundup, and it also features USB-C charging. In addition, it has a decent battery: the battery life is 30 hours.
Panasonic calls the style of its RP-HTX90N Bluetooth headphones “retro-modern” and that’s exactly what it is. Based on one of our favorite pairs of budget wired headphones, the RP-HTX80, this wireless version with active noise cancellation is comfortable and lightweight. These are warmer closed-back headphones that lack treble clarity and aren’t terribly dynamic, but audio quality is pleasant overall. Battery life is rated at 24 hours of playback, and a 15-minute quick charge gives you two and a half hours of juice.
Noise cancellation is decent, if not stellar. Ultimately, for its slightly higher price, the biggest reason to buy this model is for its design and comfort level.